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Letters Week of June 16, 2011

June 16, 2011
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Uplifting to See Diverse Leaders Unite for Israel

It was heartening to attend the kickoff of the new JCRC Israel Action Committee in which members of organizations that represent very diverse views agreed on a common goal -- to come together to more effectively advocate on behalf of Israel (City & Suburb: "Israel Advocacy Group Outlines Objectives," June 9).

To see ZOA members and supporters of the New Israel Fund, AIPAC stalwarts and J Street leaders all in the same place, espousing a common purpose, was uplifting. The advocacy emphasis on meeting people without compromising their viewpoints confirms the wisdom of the broad-tent approach.

The trick will be keeping our eyes on the prize -- Israel advocacy -- despite the enormous differences in approach of those gathered in that room.

Kudos must go to Rabbi David Straus, Joel Sweet and JCRC head Adam Kessler for modeling what such cooperation means.

Rabbi Avi Winokur 
Society Hill Synagogue 
Philadelphia

Toomey's Commitment to Israel Not a Comfort

It is hard to see how U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's financial commitment to Israel (City & Suburb, "Toomey, in Israel, Sees Security Needs Close Up," June 9) should comfort Jews in the United States, given his implicit and explicit support for the coercion of religious minorities like ours with the force of law.

Toomey refuses to sign on to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (militaryreligiousfreedom.org), which opposes Christian religious proselytizing by officers to those under their command, within the military and at the military academies.

Toomey and his allies continue to support policies that would deny federal funding for family planning, both at home and abroad, and oppose the distribution of condoms to fight the spread of AIDS.

Toomey also continues to support policies that would deny Jews their religious freedom to obtain safe and legal abortions, whether publicly funded or not.

Toomey claims after two years of campaigning, and six months in office, that he has not yet "studied the specifics" of foreign aid, and must therefore demur on a more general prescription.

It will be interesting to see how his commitment to Israel holds up after his more detailed study.

Remarkably, Toomey also says he supports the drastic foreign aid cuts that are at the heart of GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's budget concept.

Ben Burrows 
Elkins Park

Rabbi's Take on Armenia: Well-Meaning but Skewed

Rabbi Albert Gabbai's heart is in the right place in bearing the burdens of others' history, but he gets his history wrong (Editorial & Opinions: "It's About Time to Recognize the Armenian Genocide," May 12).

How to describe the plight of the Ottoman Armenians during World War I is a genuine historical controversy that scholars are delving into with ever-growing intensity. History should not be prejudged, therefore, especially in a manner that denigrates Turks.

Regarding the supposed equivalence between the Ottoman Armenian tragedy and the Holocaust, Rabbi Gabbai may wish to consider the words of Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis, who commented in 2002 that it's a falsehood to compare what happened to the Armenians with what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany.

The Turkey-Armenia Protocols of October 2009 -- which the United States, the E.U. and Russia support -- include the establishment of an impartial historical commission, "with the aim to restore mutual confidence between the two nations." It will "examin[e] the historical records and archives to define existing problems and formulate recommendations."

We hope that Rabbi Gabbai and the Jewish Exponent will join with my organization in supporting this common sense approach that will be critical to reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples.

Gunay Evinch 
Member of the Board and past president 
Assembly of Turkish American Associations 
Washington, D.C.

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